(Be The Peace)
by C.A. Matthews
The greatest purveyor of violence in the world is my own government. I cannot be silent. —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
It’s time to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this week/month in the US. What that really means to our non-American readers is that we’ve decided to take a decent human being who spoke out boldly and straightforwardly against our corrupt socio-economic system, our endless wars for profit, and the bloodthirsty quest for Western world domination, and instead turned him into a kindly, saint-like person without teeth in order to make him totally acceptable to the rich (that is, white) and powerful elites who actually run this country. (See last week’s blog Who’s Really In Charge to see what I mean about who are actually running things. They’re probably running things in your country as well. Sorry.)
Let’s listen to Dr. King’s own words rather than the words of others who might want to “tone him down” so his legacy becomes more palatable to the powerful elites who wanted King dead (and possibly even pulled the trigger on him) in the first place.
First off, Dr. King didn’t approve of war in any way, shape, or form. Conventional and nuclear warfare were both not to his liking, so I feel certain that he wouldn’t approve of our current $858 billion military budget. He wouldn’t have approved of the ridiculous warmongering propaganda we’re all being subjected to day and night by corporation-owned journalists, either. The following excerpts are what MLK said then and would say to us again today.
From Beyond Vietnam—A Time To Break Silence (April 4, 1967) https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm
To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
Some of you are shaking your heads at this point. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t hate the Communists and love his country, right or wrong, more than he hated the war in Vietnam? He didn’t patriotically rally the troops to go off to their deaths so the military industrial complex could make more profits? It seems not. MLK also said in the same speech:
Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them… This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
I’m going to step out on a limb here (because I’m fairly certain some propagandist will try to link MLK to promoting the Ukraine War) and say that Dr. King most certainly wouldn’t have approved of the US and NATO violating the Minsk Agreements and vilifying the Russian-speaking peoples of the Donbass region and their wish for independence. He would have been supportive of a negotiated peace. His words say it clearly:
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition. (...)
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the -- for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
Dr. King even ties together how war costs not only the country being bombed and shelled, but it also costs the poor of the country doing the bombing, in this case the US. Poor Americans were being actively drafted into the military in the 1960s and nowadays are enticed into joining in order to provide for themselves and their families. Sixty years on, nothing much has changed as many Americans are forced into becoming soldiers for purely economic reasons. For the poor it’s either risk death killing strangers abroad or risk death by starvation at home. MLK didn’t believe either choice was a good or moral one.
Dr. King also states in no uncertain terms that the initiative to stop war is ours. It’s ours—not another country’s choice. We can’t keep acting like cowards. The US can tell NATO that it’s time to halt the violence in Ukraine and help all those concerned to sit down at the negotiation table and work toward a peace deal acceptable to all. The US can stop funding coups d’etats and CIA plots to overthrow governments who aren’t “friendly enough” to our corporations and billionaire businessmen. In other words, MLK wouldn’t have recognized the non-elected Juan Guaido or approved of the CIA's help to overthrow Peru’s Pedro Castillo. Dr. King supported revolutionaries in search of peace and a better life for the oppressed:
In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.
Decades have passed and the same countries are still being used for ill by the US. Dr. King certainly didn’t approve of cultural chauvinism and America’s “economic hitmen”:
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
All this being said, Dr. King actually thought more highly of Americans and what they could do than we think of ourselves:
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
So, why does the US celebrate a man of peace each January, a man who strongly spoke out against the immorality of war and poverty, if we don’t believe in his vision for America and the world? Why would our so-called leaders think Dr. King would support their continuing covert and overt conflicts throughout the world simply for the sake of making arms manufacturers, bankers, Big Oil CEOs, and other related parasites even wealthier? MLK thought Americans were much better than this, much more capable of acting nobly rather than simply acting like profit-chasing narcissists:
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
Substitute "Ukraine" for "Vietnam" and re-read this paragraph.
Americans really need to ask ourselves some deep questions. Either we truly believe and agree with what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said or we don’t. If we do, we’ll stop all the horrible violence we perpetuate in the world and defund our military and our militarized police forces forthwith. We’ll dismantle our nuclear warheads and offer recompense to those we have harmed, both at home and abroad.
If we don’t believe in what Dr. King said, then we need to stop sullying the shining memory of such a great man with this charade of a national holiday. We don’t deserve him as a cultural icon. RIP Martin.
Where do you stand? Are you protesting the evil you see in the world as Dr. King instructed or are you cooperating with it? Let MLK’s words touch your heart and motivate you toward a positive direction.
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. (…)
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when "justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."Which side are you on? Which side should you be on? Move there. Today. Be the peace.
The Forgotten Socialist History of Martin Luther King Jr. https://inthesetimes.com/article/martin-luther-king-jr-day-socialism-capitalism
The 11 Most Anti-Capitalist Quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. https://scheerpost.com/2023/01/16/the-11-most-anti-capitalist-quotes-from-martin-luther-king-jr/
Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A time to reflect on how the example of a great man challenges us and invites us to be better than we are.— A.R. Moxon (@JuliusGoat) January 16, 2023
Also a time for people who hate living civil rights activists to remind us how much they prefer dead civil rights activists.
Today is a great day to remind white moderates how full of crap they are. They support everything #MLK opposed: war, imperialism, and capitalism.— Jory Micah, MA Biblical Studies & Church History (@jorymicah) January 16, 2023